The Armstrong Incident

Reads: 104  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Erotica  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Bill Jones and his wife, Tabitha, are assigned to the same ship, the USS Armstrong, on its maiden voyage to Jupiter. What Bill doesn't know is that his wife is cheating on him with the ship's first officer, Bull Travers.

Does Bill take his wife's cheating standing still, or not? Find out in "The Armstrong Incident."

Thursday, 17 April 2098 16:35 hours, USSC Judge Advocate General's Building, Joint Base Grissom

 

I just finished my coffee and looked at my watch. It had been a very long day and I was anxious for it to be over. I had spent three hours giving testimony and answering questions before being deposited in this tiny room with nothing but a television monitor and my own thoughts to keep me company.

 

I had been told to wait here until further notice, but that was over two hours ago. Surely, I thought, the board would have come to a conclusion by now. Suddenly, the door opened, and my legal representative, Commander Tom Baker, stepped into the room.

 

The board has just adjourned for the day, Lt. Jones,” he said. That's me, by the way. William Jones, Bill to my friends and family. I'm a Senior Flight Lieutenant in the United States Space Corps, what used to be called the Space Force, formed nearly 80 years ago.

 

They want you back at 0800 hours tomorrow, so you might as well go back to your quarters,” Cmdr. Baker said. “And remember, don't interact with any of the other witnesses in the case. Especially your wife.”

 

You mean, the cheating slut known as my soon-to-be ex-wife, don't you, sir?” I asked. He nodded his head.

 

Yeah. Her,” he said. “Go on, Lieutenant, get outta here. And stay out of trouble.”

 

Aye aye, sir,” I said as I stood up. I stretched my legs, grabbed my cover and headed out the door. I got into my tiny electric car, then headed back to the BOQ – that's “Bachelor Officer's Quarters” for those not familiar with the term.

 

When I got to my suite, I took my uniform off, grabbed a frozen fake meat hamburger and tossed it in the microwave. As it cooked, I took a beer out of the fridge and popped the top off. When my “burger” was finished, I pulled it out and finished it in three large bites, trying not to notice the flavor. They were okay for camping or a quick snack, but were a poor substitute for the real thing, which was getting harder and harder to come by.

 

I sat in the recliner and turned on the television monitor to catch the latest news. There really wasn't anything that grabbed my attention, so I sat back and recalled the events of the last few weeks.

 

Until just recently, I was the Weapons Officer for the USS Armstrong, the Corps' newest, largest, fastest and most modern spacecraft. Named after the astronaut who first walked on the moon back in 1969, the was said to be the most advanced machine crafted by human hands. It held a complement of 110 officers and crew members, and was propelled by two plasma ion-fusion power plants. It was said the could reach Jupiter in just under 50 days.

 

On top of that, the Armstrong carried enough firepower to decimate anything that threatened it. In addition to a complement of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, it carried three pulse-energy weapons, a rail gun, and several short-range mini-lasers that worked very much like the old mini-guns of the early 21century. In short, it was one bad-ass ship. And mine was the hand that controlled all that firepower.

 

Why have all that firepower, you might ask. About 45 years ago, one of our shuttles was attacked by an Iranian spacecraft. Unfortunately, the shuttle was unarmed and had no defenses whatsoever. A missile fired by the Iranians struck the shuttle from underneath, destroying it. Outer space being the most inhospitable environment known to man, everyone died instantly.

 

We almost went to war over that incident, but the diplomats somehow managed to avoid it. The Space Corps, however, decided from that moment on, that every manned space vehicle in its fleet would be armored and equipped for combat.

 

Getting orders to serve on the Armstrong's maiden voyage to Jupiter was only made sweeter by the fact that my wife of five years, Tabitha, or Tabby, as she liked to be called, also got a set of orders to the same vessel. Unlike me, however, she would serve as the ship's senior pilot. At first I was overjoyed by the fact that we would get to serve together on the newest ship in the fleet.

 

This would be the first time the two of us had ever been assigned to the same ship at the same time. We were high school sweethearts who pledged to be exclusive to each other shortly after we turned 18. We both wanted to fly in space and applied for the Academy in our senior year of high school.

 

Both of us were accepted and got engaged right after graduating from high school, with plans to marry after graduating from the Academy. She got her wish and became a pilot. I didn't get to become a pilot and got assigned to Operations and Weapons. At first I was bummed out about it, but the more I got to shoot things and blow things up, the more I liked it.

 

After graduating from the Academy, we got married, each of us in our dress uniforms. We were assigned to the same base, but unfortunately, our missions often kept us apart. It's hard enough when one spouse is constantly traipsing off into space for two months or so at a time, but it's even worse when both are doing the same thing.

 

Sometimes, she would be on a mission for two months, leaving me to wait at home. Other times, I would be the one on a mission. There were times when both of us would be gone at the same time, but on different missions. Needless to say, we didn't get to spend a lot of time together, so we made the most of what time we did have.

 

Don't get me wrong – I didn't just sit at home twiddling my thumbs while she was gone. I took an interest in a fairly new form of martial arts called Grav Tac that was designed specifically for use in low – to mid-G environments. I took martial arts training in high school, and was instantly drawn to this. It required strength, tactical thinking and a strong knowledge of how things react in low gravity.

 

During this time, I never even considered the possibility that Tabby would cheat on me. I always trusted her to do the right thing so I never worried about it. Even though there were times I was tempted, I decided there was no way I would cheat on the woman I loved. So the idea that she might be seeing someone behind my back never even occurred to me.

 

I remembered the times we would fantasize about making love in zero-G, or on the moon or Mars. We always said if the chance ever came, we would try it, just once. So naturally, when we both got orders to serve on the Armstrong, it was like a dream come true for both of us. Unfortunately, that dream turned into a nightmare – with no escape.

 

My mind drifted back to the day I left...

 

 

Friday, 3 January 2098 Canaveral Launch Facility, Florida

 

Dressed out in my full spaceflight suit and launch pack, I said nothing as the technicians strapped me in the seat of the passenger shuttle that would take me and 20 others to the orbital dock facility where the Armstrong was located. Being the senior pilot, Tabby had gone up in the first shuttle that launched just over three hours earlier. I was in the third shuttle to go up that day. Three more would follow.

 

Next to me was the Armstrong's First Officer, Commander Jason Travers, or “Bull,” as he was known due to his size and general demeanor. I knew Bull from the Academy. He was an instructor there when Tabby and I attended, and he was a hard-ass back then, taking no crap off of anyone. He expected the students to put out 110 percent, and he wouldn't settle for anything less.

 

He was also Tabby's counselor at the time. I sat in a few of his classes, but other than that, had very little contact with him.

 

So, Jones, you looking forward to finally getting to serve with your wife?” Bull asked.

 

Yes sir, I am,” I said.

 

Well, this is gonna be one for the history books,” he said.

 

I hear we're going farther than anyone has ever gone before,” I told him.

 

Jupiter and back in less than 100 days,” he said. “Gonna be a very interesting mission.” I felt and heard the pumps in the rocket underneath us that would eventually lift us into the sky and knew we'd be leaving Earth very soon. Bull knew it as well, as did everyone else in the shuttle. All of us were space veterans, so this was nothing new to us. Bull looked around to make sure everyone was ready to go.

 

Alright, everyone, say goodbye to Earth. This is it, so SUCK IT UP,” he bellowed before putting his head back on the seat cushion. We closed our visors and prepared for the launch. We felt the vehicle shake as the engines fired up and then felt the massive g-forces as the rocket began to lift. Looking out the window, I could see the clouds zipping by as we rose into the sky.

 

Soon, the blue sky turned black and I could see the curvature of the planet below. I never got tired of seeing that. The shuttle shook as the boosters disconnected. I knew they would fall back to Earth and land not far from where we had taken off so they could be used again. About an hour later, I could see a structure off in the distance.

 

There she is,” Bull said after opening his visor. “We'll be docking soon.” A half hour later, the shuttle came alongside the large open dock and matched its speed to the dock's. Two large tubular structures came out and made contact with the shuttle. I could hear the hiss of air as the pressure stabilized in the dock.

 

This is it,” Bull said. “Get ready to experience a bit of gravity. Right now, the ship should be at .8 G's.” I knew from my orientation documents the was equipped with a gravitational system that could be adjusted as necessary. That would help alleviate the effects of long-term exposure to zero gravity, which included fluid shifts, muscular atrophy and loss of bone.

 

We waited for the crew to give the signal, and soon, a green light flashed above the hatchways. Bull unsnapped his harness and stood up, motioning for the others to follow suit. After he stepped into the aisle, I unsnapped my harness and stood, grabbing my bag.

 

It felt strange moving from the near-zero gravity of the shuttle to the somewhat-reduced, but present, gravity of the ship. In the space of a few steps I could feel the weight of my pack and my bag.

 

Launch stations in four hours, people,” Bull shouted as we entered the vessel. “Let's go. There's three more shuttles right behind us.”

 

I already knew from the orientation material where our cabin was located, so I made my way there first, hoping to see Tabby. Unfortunately, she wasn't there, but I could tell she had already been in the cabin as her stuff took up half the space in our tiny “closet.”

 

I put my gear away, stripped out of the heavy space suit and donned my regular flight suit. Grabbing my black uniform cap, I headed off to the bridge to take my station at the weapons console. I had a lot of work to do before we could launch. When I got there, the bridge was buzzing with activity. Tabby was working her way through the pre-flight checklist, so I left her alone.

 

I fired up the console and started the calibration routines, then grabbed a printout of the weapons inventory. From there, I went to the two cruise missile platforms and physically verified the serial numbers on the list and checked to make sure the locks were in place. From there, I went to each of the weapons stations and verified those were locked and ready to be put into immediate use.

 

Then I went back to the bridge to report my inventory to the captain. I had to wait for the medical officer to finish his report before presenting my inventory, but I was okay with that. When the doc left, the captain looked at me. I recognized him right off – Capt. Alan Simmons.

 

Lt. Jones,” he said as he took my inventory sheet. “We served on the Shepard as I recall.”

 

Yes, sir, we did,” I said. He signed the inventory and we verified our key numbers. Only three people had keys to the cruise missiles – myself, the captain and the first officer. Two of those three keys were required to launch the missiles.

 

Good to have you with us, Jones,” he said. “I understand you and our senior pilot are married.” Tabby turned and smiled as she heard that.

 

Yes sir, we are,” I told him.

 

Good,” Alan said. “That should help make the trip more exciting for you.”

 

Yes sir, I hope so,” I said, looking at Tabby. She gave me a mischievous smile then returned to her business. By then, Bull had made it to the bridge and was walking around making sure everyone was on task. Bull gave me a look that could freeze a solar flare and I took that as a hint to get back to my station. “I'd better get back to my station, sir.” Alan nodded his head and turned to the next person requiring his attention.

 

I got back to my station and verified that all of the calibration tasks had completed. From my perspective, everything was locked down and in good order. I knew from my time on the that Capt. Simmons liked to hold impromptu weapons drills and target practice from time to time, so it was important that I was ready to lock and load on a moment's notice.

 

It was also imperative the targeting system remained calibrated at all times. Generally speaking, once the system was calibrated it remained that way, unless there was a major malfunction or someone messed with it. Nevertheless, every shift began with a calibration check. Finally, Alan began his pre-launch check-in with each station as we all belted ourselves in our seats.

 

Ops,” he called.

 

All systems go for launch,” responded Lt. Commander Alice Brewster, the operations officer and my immediate superior.

 

Engineering,” Alan called.

 

All systems nominal and within normal parameters. Go for launch, sir,” said Lt. Commander Brian Falkner, the senior engineer.

 

Weapons!”

 

All systems calibrated and locked, sir. All weapons accounted for,” I said.

 

Comm!”

 

Communications five by five, sir,” said Lt. Commander Denise Simpson, the senior communications officer.

 

Navigation!”

 

Course laid in and locked, sir. ETA to Mars Station 440 hours,” said Lt. Ryan Halcomb, the senior navigation officer, whose console was located next to Tabby's in the front center of the bridge.

 

Number One!”

 

All personnel present and accounted for, sir. All stations report go for launch,” Bull said from his station, located just behind and to the left of Alan. Alan nodded his head and punched a button on the console in front of him.

 

Houston, this is Armstrong. Request clearance for launch.”

 

Clearance for launch approved, Armstrong. Godspeed,” said a voice from the communications speaker overhead. Alan nodded his head and punched the console again.

 

Roger that, Houston,” he said. He punched another button and spoke again. “Spacedock, this is Armstrong. Clearance for launch granted. Disconnect and retract all lines.”

 

Copy that, Armstrong. Lines retracting.” We heard several sharp noises and knew those were the lines being retracted. From this point on, we were on our own power. A few moments later, we heard the acknowledgment that all lines had been fully retracted, leaving the ship free to move forward.

 

Start the engines,” Alan ordered.

 

Engines started,” Brian said.

 

Take us out, helm. Nice and easy. Don't scratch the paint,” Alan said with a smile.

 

Aye aye, sir,” Tabby said, pushing two levers forward while holding the control column. The ship slowly began to move forward and I could see the exit of the spacedock get closer. I knew that at this point, we were operating on maneuvering thrusters only. Firing up the plasma ion-fusion engines inside the spacedock would cause serious damage to both the dock and the . Soon, we were clear of the large structure.

 

Spacedock cleared,” Tabby said. From here, we would spiral out of Earth orbit to a point somewhere between the Earth and the moon, where we would fire up the two large engines. “Q-Point,” it was called, and I could see the tracking on the navigator's console from where I sat. An hour later, the navigator spoke up.

 

ETA to Q-Point two mikes, sir,” Ryan said. “The road is clear.” That meant the forward sensors detected no debris or organic material – like a rock – in our path that would damage the ship.

 

Copy that,” Alan said. “Engineering!”

 

Engines warmed up and ready, sir,” Brian said. Alan punched his console.

 

Houston, Armstrong. Approaching Q-Point.”

 

Approaching Q-Point, copy that, Armstrong.” We all watched the countdown timers on our console and prepared ourselves. When the timer reached 0:00, Alan spoke again.

 

Kick the tires and light the fires, helm. Let's see what this girl can do.” Tabby's hands flew over her console as she responded.

 

Kicking tires, lighting fires. Aye aye, sir,” she said. She pushed the control levers all the way forward and we all felt the initial force as the plasma ion-fusion engines opened up. We heard a faint hum as the engines ramped up and could feel the increase in g-forces. I knew that at this point, we were traveling faster through space than any human being had ever traveled before.

 

I looked at Tabby, feeling a great sense of pride in the way she handled herself – and this humongous vessel. She glanced back at me, so I smiled, winked and gave her a thumbs-up. She smiled in return. Glancing at Bull, I thought he was about to explode, so I turned back to my console.

 

About an hour later, I got the first clue that things were not going to go well on this voyage when Bull posted the bridge officers' schedule. I wasn't surprised to see him post the schedule – that was normally the First Officer's job. But I was surprised to see that I had been placed on the second shift.

 

You have to understand that in space, there is no such thing as “night” or “day.” Our chronometers – like every other ship in the Corps – are synchronized with those in Houston. When it's nighttime in Houston, the ship's lighting is dimmed significantly to give the crew a sense that it's “night.” That typically happens during the second shift.

 

Bridge officers in the Corps typically work a twelve-hour shift. As a result, there are two shifts, first and second. The Corps has a long-time tradition of placing senior bridge officers on the first shift, while placing lesser-experienced and lower-ranking officers on the second. There's nothing in writing that spells this out, and the First Officer has quite a bit of leeway in this regard.

 

But it still hurt to see that Bull had placed me on the second shift. It was almost like getting a demotion. Worse yet, it meant that Tabby and I would not be able to spend hardly any time together, since she was on the first shift. If I was lucky, we'd get to see each other for a few minutes during the shift changes. To say I was pissed would be an understatement. And Bull knew it.

 

Is there a problem with the schedule, Lieutenant?” I heard Bull ask. I looked up to see him in front of my console. By now, Alice had stepped to my side. Apparently, she had seen the schedule as well and was just as curious as I was to hear his explanation.

 

Am I still the senior weapons officer, sir?” I asked.

 

Of course you are,” Bull said.

 

Then why am I on second shift?”

 

Because in my judgment, that's the best place for you,” he said, his voice starting to get attention. “Look, Lieutenant, if you have a problem with the schedule, take it up with the captain. Through me!” By now, Alan had stepped to my console.

 

Is there a problem here, gentlemen?” he asked.

 

Lieutenant Jones doesn't seem to like the bridge schedule, sir,” Bull said. Alan looked at the schedule, his face frowning as he read.

 

I can understand how he might feel, Number One,” Alan said. “This is highly... unusual, wouldn't you agree?”

 

Yes, sir, I would under normal circumstances,” Bull said. “I just feel that Lt. Jones' expertise and experience would be best served on the second shift. And I feel this would give us an opportunity to train up some of the other weapons officers – give them first-shift bridge experience.” My bullshit detectors were pegging right about now. I couldn't believe the crap he was laying on the captain.

 

Is that the only reason, Commander, or is there something else?” Alan asked. Apparently, he wasn't buying it, either.

 

If I may speak freely, sir,” Bull said quietly.

 

Always, Number One,” Alan said.

 

I've never been a big fan of spouses working on the same ship. Especially in such close quarters. I don't want to see either of them distracted from their duties.”

 

I thought so,” Alan said. “I can understand how you might feel, but I will not have their morale affected by this tour. You make sure the two of them have some quality time with each other, you hear me?”

 

Yes, sir,” Bull said. Alan looked at me before speaking.

 

Can you make this work, Lieutenant?” he asked.

 

Yes, sir,” I said. He nodded his head.

 

Good. Carry on, all of you,” he said before walking away. Bull glared at me for a moment, then a smirk broke out on his face.

 

Don't worry, Jones. I'll keep an eye on your wife for you,” he said before walking away. I looked at Alice and was about to say something, but she put her finger to her lips.

 

Don't say anything, Bill,” she said. “We'll talk later. Go on, I'll call Lt. Robinson.”

 

Yes, ma'am,” I said quietly. I glanced at Tabby and noticed she was trying to concentrate on a spot on her console. I could see her face was red, but I didn't know whether it was embarrassment or guilt. I turned and strode off the bridge, feeling more embarrassed and humiliated than I had ever felt on board a ship. Something about this just stunk to high heaven.

 

I went to the galley, hoping to grab something to eat. It was outside the normal chow time and I knew they wouldn't have much to offer, but I needed something in my stomach.

 

Not much available right now, Lt.,” the man behind the Plexiglas divider said. “About all we have are some fake meat burgers. Tastes like shit, but they're guaranteed to fill you up. Sorry.”

 

That'll do for now,” I said. “I'll take one.” He grabbed one and put it on my tray. He held up a small packet of flavored ketchup.

 

Want some axle grease to make it a bit more palatable?” he asked with a smile.

 

Sure, why not,” I said, taking the packet. “Thanks.”

 

Any time, Lieutenant,” he said. I grabbed a small bottle of chocolate milk and made my way to an empty table. I ate the burger after coating the patty with the ketchup and swallowed the milk. The crewman was right. It tasted like shit, but filled me up. And the ketchup did make it a bit more palatable. I put the tray away, tossed my garbage in the can and headed to my cabin.

 

I laid in my rack and tried to sleep, but was unable to. I found myself wondering what Bull was really up to. And what did he mean about keeping an eye on Tabby? I tossed and turned for about an hour, but couldn't relax. Frustrated, I finally got up and put on my workout clothes – a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. After I donned a pair of shoes and socks, I headed to the small gym on one of the lower decks.

 

When I got there, I was relieved to see that I was alone. Good, I thought. That would give me the space to work off some of my frustration without having to interact with anyone, which I didn't think I could do without getting angry.

 

I warmed up a bit, then worked out on the treadmill and the weight machine for a while. Then I went to the gravity controller mounted on the wall and turned the gravity in the room down to .4G. I could feel the difference instantly. Then I spent the next half hour working through some Grav Tac routines I learned before leaving Earth. By then, I had worked up a good sweat and felt like I could finally sleep.

 

I turned the gravity back up to where it originally was, then went back to my cabin. I showered in the tiny head, set the alarm, then laid back down. I was asleep in no time.

 

When my alarm went off, I got up, showered, shaved, put my uniform on and went to the galley for something to eat, which was a damn sight better than the fake meat burger I had earlier. I got to the bridge just as Tabby was leaving.

 

Hey stranger,” I said when I saw her. She looked at me and smiled.

 

Hey yourself,” she said.

 

Look, I didn't get a chance to tell you, but I thought you did a damn good job with the launch earlier,” I said.

 

Well, thank you,” she told me.

 

Uh, look, how about if I come by on my lunch break so we can spend some time together,” I said. I saw the wheels turning in her head and thought she would give me an excuse why it wouldn't work. Fortunately that didn't happen.

 

Sure, I'll set my alarm,” she said. “Maybe you can eat me instead of one of those fake burgers.”

 

Works for me,” I said. “See you in six hours.”

 

I'll be there,” she said, giving me a quick kiss. “I love you.”

 

I love you too,” I told her. I watched her walk away and thought that maybe we could make this work after all. I turned and found myself looking at Bull's snarling face.

 

About damn time you showed up, Jones,” he said. I looked at my watch.

 

My shift doesn't officially start for 15 minutes, Commander,” I said. “I just wanted a word with my wife before I went on. If that's okay with you, .” For a moment, I thought he was going to take a swing, but he calmed down.

 

Yeah, that's okay,” he said before walking on down the corridor. I went into the bridge and relieved Lt. Robinson. He gave me his shift turnover and headed out. Alice came to me as I started my calibration routine.

 

How are you holding up?” she asked.

 

I'll be fine, ma'am,” I said.

 

Drop the 'ma'am' crap, Bill,” she said. “We've worked together before. Seriously, how are you holding up?”

 

It's not easy, but I'll manage, Alice. Thanks for asking.”

 

You're welcome. Listen, I know you have a lot on your mind, but I think you need to keep an eye on your wife and Commander Travers.” I looked at her, shocked.

 

You think there's something going on between them?” I asked.

 

Possibly. Call it a woman's intuition if you want, Bill. I just sense there may be something happening there. I've seen it before. Little looks here and there, that sort of thing. Nothing blatant, but there's definitely a spark between those two,” she said.

 

Got it, Alice. Thanks for letting me know. I plan to see her on my lunch break. Hopefully that will help,” I said.

 

I hope so too, Bill,” she said.

 

Think we should tell the captain?” I asked her. She shook her head.

 

Not unless you have hard evidence against them. An accusation like that against a senior officer could backfire and really screw up your career,” she said. “Just keep an eye out and try to keep your wife on her toes. I'll keep an eye on things during first shift.”

 

Okay, Alice,” I said. “Thanks for the heads-up.” She nodded her head and left the bridge. I checked the calibration routine and left to inventory the cruise missiles and inspect the weapons stations. When I got back, Alan was waiting for me.

 

Feel like doing some target practice?” he asked. Hell, I'm always up to shooting something, I thought to myself.

 

Yes sir,” I told him.

 

Good,” he said. “Fire off some drones and let's see what you got.” I set the station to launch a series of five drones, then activated the short-range mini lasers. These operated very much like the old mini-guns did. A series of six high-powered and very hot lasers were mounted just like the old Gatling guns. The laser fire from these weapons was intense and could burn through several inches of armor plating in no time whatsoever. I had seen them cut an old armored battleship in two once. The belt armor on the old thing was over 12 inches thick, but the lasers sliced it like a hot knife through butter.

 

Once the drones were fired, I turned the mini-lasers loose on them. The system was designed to track and fire on up to ten targets at once. It only took a second or two for the lasers to take out the drones. I looked at my console and saw the message: “All Targets Destroyed.”

 

Nicely done, Lieutenant,” Alan said with a smile.

 

Thank you, sir,” I replied. He got out of his chair and came to my station.

 

I'm going to go hit the rack for a bit, Lieutenant. Looks like you'll be the senior officer on watch so why don't you take the center chair. I'll be back in time for your lunch break,” he said with a knowing smile.

 

Having served with Alan before, I knew him to be the “king of the power nap.” He was one of those people who could go for nearly 24 hours on just three or four hours of sleep. I figured it was something that came with years of command experience.

 

Yes sir, thank you,” I said in response. He left the bridge and I took his station. It felt good to sit in the command chair. From here, I could keep track of everything on the ship. That's when it hit me.

 

Every crew member wore a device on their wrist that not only kept track of time and acted as an alarm, it also worked as a communicator, a tracking device and monitored our vital signs. All crew members were required to wear the device at all times. The only time we were allowed to remove it was when we took a shower.

 

I fired up the tracking monitor on the command console and searched for Travers. The monitor showed him to be in his quarters. Or to be more precise, it said the tracker was in his quarters. When I drilled a bit deeper, I noticed it said he was in a deep sleep and his pulse rate was normal for someone in that state. That could only happen if he was actually wearing the thing.

 

I searched for Jones and got two choices, William (me) and Tabitha. I selected Tabby and saw that her tracker was in our quarters. Good. Like Bull, her tracker indicated she was asleep and her vital signs were all nominal for someone in that state. I thought about accessing the history of both trackers, but knew I needed the command or medical password for that. Since I had neither, I was unable to determine if the two of them had been involved in other, more strenuous, activity.

 

But what I saw was good enough for the moment, I thought. It would be very difficult for the two of them to fake something like that, so I turned off the tracking monitor and went about my business. I looked around the bridge. Everyone was busy tending to their stations, and were engrossed in their jobs. It was almost like I wasn't even there.

 

I turned back to my console and went over the checklist. So far, everything was operating within normal parameters. We were approaching a course correction in about an hour, but I knew it was already programmed into the navigational system and would be done automatically.

 

The comm officer on watch was in constant communication with someone from Mission Control in Houston and I knew I wouldn't need to be involved unless there was a situation that demanded the captain's immediate attention. The engineering officer on duty was carefully monitoring the status of the engines and the ship's vital systems. The helmsman and navigation officer were carefully tending to the ship's flight, making sure the upcoming course correction would take place without a problem. I made the necessary log entries for that hour and stepped to the weapons console to do a quick check.

 

Everything seemed to be fine, so I headed back to the central chair and sat down. About two hours into the shift, Yeoman Marks went around to all the stations, getting everyone's drink order. We were allowed to have drinks at our stations, provided they remained covered and straws were used. She left and came back from the galley a bit later, handing out everyone's drinks.

 

A few minutes before I was scheduled to take lunch, Alan returned and I surrendered the big chair over to him, giving him a short brief on events so far. He nodded his head as he sat down and made his log entry.

 

Thank you, Lieutenant,” he said. “Why don't you go on and take your lunch break now,” he added with a slight wink.

 

Yes, sir,” I said, checking out of my station. I headed for the cabin Tabby and I shared and stopped just before I opened the hatch. I took a deep breath and entered. She had just woke up, her alarm having gone off. She pulled the covers back and I could see her nude body on the bed.

 

God, she's so beautiful, I thought to myself as I walked toward her, removing my flight suit as I went. By the time I reached her, I had removed my clothes and she spread her well-toned legs wide so I could see her shaved pussy. She looked so good, her flawless skin begging to be kissed and touched.

 

You ready for lunch?” she asked provocatively. I smiled and got on the bed with her.

 

You know I am,” I said as I began kissing her. I covered her with kisses, working my way down her body, stopping long enough to suck her erect nipples. From there, I went further south, until I had reached her pubic area. I could smell her arousal, mixed with a hint of the strawberry douche she always used. Without thinking, I began to lick her. She spread her legs wider, giving me better access.

 

I kept working on her until I heard the moans that always preceded her orgasm. I kissed my way back up her body and looked her in the eye.

 

Fuck me, baby,” she moaned, taking my now-hard cock in her hands. Using Grav Tac techniques I had learned, I anchored myself as best I could and worked my way inside her. We said very little as we coupled. Both of us needed this and I was determined to make it as good as possible for her. After a while, we experienced our climax and laid in the bed kissing each other tenderly.

 

God, that was so good,” she said. “I really needed this.”

 

I did too,” I told her. “I've missed you.”

 

And I've missed you too. I love you so much.”

 

I love you, too,” I answered.

 

You'd better get cleaned up and get going,” she said. “You haven't even eaten yet.” I looked at the time and saw I had about 40 minutes left before my break was over.

 

Yeah, you're right,” I said. “Wanna do this again, maybe during your lunch break?”

 

Sure, why not,” she said with a smile. Feeling a bit better about things, I got out of bed, took a quick shower and left for the galley. Before I left the cabin, I gave her a kiss, then dimmed the lights for her and turned the gravity level in the room down a notch, to .7 G. I knew the only reason I could perform was my knowledge of Grav Tac, and I knew Bull wasn't familiar with it.

 

Keep in mind that sex in space is not easy. Forget what you may have seen in the movies. For starters, blood tends to travel to the head in micro-gravity, not the penis. Fortunately, the ship's default gravity was set at .8 G, barely making it possible for us to enjoy each other. But it still wasn't easy. I had no doubt that if the gravity was set lower than it was, we probably would not have been able to do what we did.

 

Another problem is that testosterone levels tend to go down in a micro-gravity environment, and over a long period of time, the heart can shrink, reducing the amount of blood in the circulatory system. These were just some of the reasons NASA was opposed to sending couples into space a century or so ago. Another reason involved the complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

 

Still, there were many stories involving couples in orbit over the years. I remember reading about a cosmonaut who spent 14 months on the Russian Mir station back in the 1990s. According to the story, he became close to a female cosmonaut, causing some to think they had done the dirty in orbit. Kremlin officials denied the claims, and the cosmonaut wrote about it later on.

 

No need to say what we’re longing for. Men think about those things. One can’t turn away from them. But these thoughts somehow fade with time,” he wrote. He also said his superiors suggested he take a sex doll with him, but he was concerned he might get too attached to the busty inflatable sex toy.

 

Many of the old space administration's restrictions were carried over when the Corps began sending people into orbit. But the development of artificial gravity in the early 2090s rendered many of those restrictions moot. So the Corps backed off a bit, and allowed married couples to have sexual relations in space so long as some form of birth control was used and the gravity level was set at .8 G.

 

I felt much better about things as I wolfed down a tuna sandwich and made my way back to the bridge. When I got there, I still had two minutes left on my break. Alan looked at me as I took my station.

 

Have a good lunch, Lieutenant?” he asked.

 

Yes sir, a very good lunch,” I told him. He smiled and nodded his head.

 

Good. Carry on,” he said, turning back to his console.

 

The next 17 days were pretty much the same. Tabby did come to our cabin during her lunch break several times, and of course, I joined her during my lunch breaks every chance I could. Being able to see each other at least part of the time helped get me through that part of the trip.

 

I didn't see Bull much during that time, and that also helped. Of course, I still had some concerns, but I saw or heard nothing to suggest something fishy was going on. Alice kept me up to date on things, but she said she hadn't seen nor heard anything either. By the time we reached Mars Station, I began to think that maybe I had blown things up out of proportion.

 

After the Armstrong docked at Mars Station, I put on my Class C uniform in anticipation of some shore leave with Tabby. But my hopes of spending quality time with her at Huygens Base, a domed facility named after the Dutch astronomer who drew pictures of the Red Planet using a telescope of his own design, were dashed when Bull informed me there was a problem with one or more of the weapons stations.

 

What?” I asked, shocked. There wasn't a problem with them the last time I checked, which was just a few hours earlier, during my shift. I looked at Lt. Robinson. “Were you aware of any problems?” I asked him. He shook his head.

 

Not until just before we docked, sir,” he told me. Something was really fishy about this and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

 

We're only here for 72 hours,” Bull said. “And those weapons had better be on line by the time we launch. So you'd better get to it, Jones.” I looked at Tabby and shook my head.

 

It'll be okay, dear,” she said with a sad look on her face. “We'll have other chances to visit Huygens together. I'll bring you a souvenir, alright?” Bull snickered at that.

 

Don't worry, Jones, I'll keep an eye on your wife for you. Promise,” he said. Yeah, I'm sure you will, you son-of-a-bitch, I thought. Just then, Alan came over to us.

 

Well, are you ready for some shore leave?” he asked.

 

We are,” Bull said. “But Jones here needs to take a look at the weapons systems.”

 

Is there a problem?” Alan asked.

 

The calibration is off on two of the mini-lasers, sir,” Robinson said.

 

When did that happen?” Alan asked.

 

I noticed it just before securing the station, sir,” Robinson said. Alan frowned and looked at me.

 

Then you'd better take a look, Lieutenant,” he said. “I'll take a look at them with you if you don't mind.”

 

Not at all, sir,” I said, glancing at Bull. “I appreciate it.”

 

I'll stay and help, Lieutenant,” Robinson said.

 

Thanks, Robinson, I appreciate that,” I said.

 

Well, I guess we'd better get to the station before all the shuttles leave,” Bull said. Tabby looked at me sadly but said nothing.

 

Do that, Number One,” Alan said. Bull and Tabby turned and left. I couldn't help but notice that she never told me she loved me or that she would see me later. I turned and looked at Alice.

 

This stinks to high heaven, Bill,” she told me quietly. “I'll keep a loose tab on them down there.”

 

Thanks,” I said. She smiled and patted my arm before she left.

 

Well, I guess I'd better change into my work clothes,” I said. “Which lasers have the problems?”

 

Number two and number five, sir,” Robinson said.

 

Alright, I'll take number two if you can check five. We'll need to inspect them all, though,” I said.

 

On my way, sir,” Robinson said. I turned to leave and saw Alan looking at the door that Bull and Tabby exited through earlier. I could see the wheels turning in his head.

 

I'll change and meet you at laser station two, if that's alright, sir,” I said.

 

I'll meet you there in a few minutes,” he said. I grabbed my tool bag and left the bridge. I had been at the station for a few minutes when Alan crawled next to me. I noticed that he had changed back into his work uniform.

 

What's the word?” he asked.

 

Just getting ready to remove the control box cover,” I said. I pulled out a tool and began removing the cover. After I took the cover off, I looked inside and saw the problem. One of the gears that was part of the drive system had sheared and broken off. The “E” clip that held it in place was also missing. I looked to see if it was laying down in the bottom of the sealed unit, but it wasn't there. It was missing – completely.

 

Damn,” I said.

 

What?” Alan asked.

 

Someone's been inside this unit, sir,” I said. “The 'E' clip is gone and that drive gear is sheared and broken.”

 

What would've happened if the weapon was engaged?”

 

The force of the drive unit would've completely destroyed the system. If the lasers were firing at the time, they could've sliced right through the hull,” I said.

 

Damn. How do you think something like this could've happened?” he asked. I shook my head.

 

Someone had to have done it deliberately,” I said. “I don't see any way that clip would've gone completely missing like that. Thing is, these are normally sealed units. The only way in is with a special tool. This one,” I added, holding the tool in my hand.

 

Can it be fixed?” he asked.

 

Sure,” I said. “There's spare control units in the armory. But this isn't a part that normally breaks and we only have two spare control units. Hopefully, none of the others have been damaged.”

 

How long will it take to fix?”

 

The whole unit has to be disassembled, the new control box put in place, tested, realigned and calibrated. About eight to ten hours total. That's assuming there aren't any other problems.”

 

Damn,” he said. “Alright, get the new control unit in. Do you need my help?” Although it was time-consuming, it was a one-man job, and I really didn't need his help. Nevertheless, the fact that he offered meant a lot and I found myself respecting him even more for it. I shook my head.

 

No sir, I can manage this, but thanks for asking anyway,” I said. “Besides, there's only room for one set of hands.” Just then, my wrist communicator beeped. I looked and saw it was a call from Robinson.

 

Jones here, go ahead, Robinson,” I said, talking into the communicator.

 

Boss, it looks like an 'E' clip has broken off and a drive gear is completely sheared,” he said. I looked at Alan. “The whole control unit needs to be replaced.”

 

Alright,” I said. “Get to it. Get with the armory and have them go over all the weapons platforms.”

 

On it,” he said.

 

What are the odds of two control units breaking like that at the same time?” Alan asked.

 

Very slim,” I said. “I've never seen one of these units break like that, let alone two at the same time. These are probably the most stable platforms in our inventory.”

 

Is it possible this is a manufacturing issue?” he asked.

 

Highly unlikely, sir,” I said. “These units go through extensive testing before being installed. I've worked with hundreds of these things and I've never seen this happen before.”

 

Okay. I'll need to report this to Houston,” Alan said. “We'd better get the engineers in here from Mars Station and stand down for a complete level five diagnostic. Hard to believe a trillion-dollar spacecraft can be stopped by a 50-cent E-clip.” I chuckled at that. “Report to me as soon as you're finished.”

 

Yes, sir,” I said. I watched him back himself out of the cramped quarters and turned to my work. When I had the control unit completely removed, I looked closer to see what else I might find. There, on the inside of the case, was a dark smudge.

 

It didn't look like gear grease. As I examined it, I realized what it was – blood. Whoever sabotaged this unit cut his – or her – hand on the case. I pulled a q-tip from my tool box and managed to get some of the substance. Then I put it into a small plastic bag, sealed it up and put it back into the tool bag. I intended to take it to medical for a DNA analysis.

 

By then, one of the armorers brought a new control unit and took the old one away. I turned to my work and tried to focus on what I was doing, but it was hard. I thought about who might've done this and why. Then it hit me.

 

Bull had done everything he could to keep Tabby and I apart during this voyage. First, there was the change in the shift schedule. Sure, he offered an explanation. Alan accepted it, but I wasn't buying it. Then this happened. And what was it he said as he and Tabby left for Huygens? Something about taking care of Tabby? Could it be...

 

The idea that Tabby would cheat on me with him made me mad and sick to my stomach at the same time. I knew Bull was her counselor in the Academy, and I also knew they had served together a couple times since then. Was she screwing him back then as well?

 

I finally finished installing the new control unit and ran a dry test. Everything seemed to be okay, so I made a note in the maintenance log. Ten hours of my life shot to hell. Ten hours I would never get back. Ten hours I should've been at Huygens with Tabby... I looked through the entire log when I finished, but saw nothing that would provide a clue. I saw Robinson as I climbed out of the access tube.

 

How'd it go?” I asked him.

 

The new unit is in place, sir,” he said. “The armorers checked the other stations and reported no other problems.”

 

All the same, I want a complete visual inspection of everything, and I want a physical inventory of all weapons and missiles,” I said. “I know this is gonna screw up your shore leave, but it's gotta be done.”

 

I understand, sir,” he said. “I'll get right on it.”

 

Thanks,” I said. He nodded his head, gave a smile and turned to his work. I stopped at sick bay on my way to the bridge and spoke to the corpsman on duty.

 

What's up, Lt. Jones,” the female chief petty officer asked when I came in.

 

Are you guys set up to do DNA analysis?” I asked.

 

Well, we do have the equipment, but the final analysis will have to be verified by a certified lab,” she said. “Why do you ask?” I pulled out my sample and handed it to her.

 

I need to know whose blood this is,” I said. “Can you do that?”

 

Sure,” she said. “It'll take a few hours and we'll have to compare it to all the DNA we have on record. Why do you need this?”

 

I really can't get into that right now, Chief,” I said. “I just need to know whose it is. And I need you to keep this under your hat.” She looked at me, surprised.

 

Okay, Lieutenant,” she said. “I'll get right on it and send you a text when I have something.”

 

Thanks, Chief, I owe you,” I said.

 

Damn right you do, sir,” she said with a smile. She was quite attractive, and for a moment, I wondered what she looked like without that uniform. But only for a moment. From there, I headed to the bridge to make my report. Alan was standing outside the hatchway to his ready room as I got to the bridge.

 

Got it fixed?” he asked.

 

Yes, sir,” I said. “Lt. Robinson is inspecting the rest of the systems now.”

 

Good. Step into my office if you would,” he said. I walked into the ready room and saw Alice with Lt. Commander Carson, the ship's senior security officer. When Alan entered the small room, he closed the hatch and took his seat.

 

Thank you for showing up on such short notice,” he said, looking at Alice and Commander Carson. “I'm sorry to have interrupted your shore leave, Alice, but it seems we have a situation here and I need you and Commander Carson to get on it right away.”

 

No problem, sir,” she said.

 

It seems we may have a saboteur on board,” Alan said. “Two of our weapons systems appear to have been sabotaged shortly before arriving at Mars Station, and Command has instructed me to perform an initial investigation. I've also been instructed to contact the Corps Criminal Investigation Unit at Huygens.

 

They won't be able to have anyone here for at least 36 hours, so you have that time to find out what you can. I am temporarily giving you both access to all tracker history. I want to know who accessed those weapons units and I want to know ASAP. I want a thorough but discreet investigation. You understand me? I don't want word of this getting out to the crew,” he said.

 

We understand, sir,” Commander Carson said.

 

In the meantime, an engineering team from Mars Station is performing a full level five diagnostic on the ship. That will set us back about 72 hours. Command isn't comfortable seeing us under way with a possible saboteur on board, and I agree. It's possible the mission may get scrubbed,” Alan said. “Any questions or comments?”

 

Just one, sir,” I said. All eyes turned to me.

 

Yes, Lieutenant?” Alan asked.

 

I found what I believe is blood on the case of the control unit I replaced. I took a sample to sick bay for DNA analysis,” I said.

 

Good thinking,” Alan said. “I'll swing by sick bay. Who did oyu give the sample to?”

 

Chief Benson, sir,” I said. He nodded his head in acknowledgment.

 

Alright. I'll speak to her when I get there. Thank you. Anything else?” We all shook our heads. “Dismissed. You have a job to get done.”

 

Yes, sir,” Commander Carson said. We left the ready room and I locked my tool bag in the weapons console. I was about to leave the bridge when Alice called to me.

 

Yes, ma'am,” I said as I gave her my attention.

 

Bill, I spent some time watching Tabby and Commander Travers. I'm sorry, but it looks to me like they're a... bit too familiar with each other, if you know what I mean,” she said. She pulled out her mobile phone and showed me pictures.

 

I was shocked at what I saw. Tabby and Bull were arm-in-arm as they went into a club. Alice had photos of them dancing and drinking, acting like two teenagers on a date. There was the usual flirting and touching, and Alice had pictures of the two of them kissing. Then she showed me pictures of them walking into a hotel. It didn't take a scientist to figure out what they would be doing there.

 

I'm sorry, Bill,” she said quietly. “I thought you should know.”

 

Thank you, Alice,” I said as I fought back tears. “Are you going to report this to the captain?”

 

You know that I have no choice but to report this,” she said. “But I thought you should know first.”

 

I appreciate that,” I said. I left the bridge and caught up with Robinson. We finished going over the rest of the systems and pulled an inventory of everything. My shift over, I went to the galley and grabbed a bite to eat, then trudged back to my quarters and tried to sleep. It wasn't easy, with images of Tabby and Bull together, but I managed to log a few hours.

 

I woke up, showered, dressed and began to leave when Tabby walked into the cabin. She looked rested and her face had that glow it always has after sex. Part of me wanted to kill her.

 

Have a good time?” I asked in a neutral tone of voice.

 

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did,” she said. “We just got back. I'm sorry you didn't get to join us. Maybe next time.” I just looked at her. “What's going on? I saw all the station engineers.”

 

Maintenance,” I said. “So, what's on your agenda?”

 

Well, I'm going to hit the rack for a bit. I'm pretty tired and I'm off duty for the next 12 hours. Are you going on duty now?”

 

Yes,” I said.

 

Did you ever get that little problem solved?”

 

I believe so.”

 

Good,” she said. “You know I missed you down there.”

 

Really? That's not what I heard,” I said.

 

What's that supposed to mean?”

 

I heard you and Bull had a good time without me,” I said. “Is there anything you'd like to tell me?”

 

We danced a bit,” she said. “Had a couple of drinks. But that's all.”

 

Nothing else happened?” I asked.

 

Of course not,” she said, acting shocked. “Why would you think that?”

 

Nothing,” I said. “I have to get to work.” I headed for the door, but Tabby stopped me. She tried to give me a kiss, but I turned my head and she ended up kissing my cheek.

 

Bill, you know I love you,” she said. “What's going on?”

 

You tell me,” I said. I left the cabin, not giving her a chance to respond. Who was this woman, I asked myself. Did she honestly think she could come to me right after screwing some other guy and expect me to act like there was no problem? Did she think I couldn't see through her lies?

 

I signed into my station and realized I hadn't seen Bull. I did my usual routine and turned to the ongoing diagnostics. About seven hours into my shift, I realized I hadn't eaten anything, so I signed out and took my lunch break. I decided to go to my cabin and see Tabby for a bit before going back on duty. I had planned to talk this out with her, but when I opened the hatch, I got hit with something no husband should ever see.

 

There, on the double bed Tabby and I shared, was Tabby, on her knees, straddling Bull. I felt the increased gravity and looked to see the gravity in the cabin was set to .9 G. Both of them turned to see who was standing in the open hatch. Tabby jumped up off Bull's dick as he turned to me, a smirk on his face.

 

Close the goddamn hatch,” he growled. “What are you, a pervert or something? You like to watch?”

 

What's going on here?” I asked. Tabby found something interesting on the deck to stare at while Bull got on his feet.

 

What's it look like, Lieutenant?” he asked as he pulled his clothes on. “Didn't they teach you sex-ed in high school?” He finished putting his flight suit on and started toward me. “Let's walk, Lieutenant. We need to talk.” He turned to Tabby. “I'll be back and we can finish this... discussion later.” Tabby looked at me with sad eyes.

 

I'm sorry, Bill,” she said quietly.

 

We'll talk about this later,” I said. Bull shook his head.

 

No, you won't, Lieutenant,” he said. “Let's go. Follow me.” As we turned, I activated the video record function on my suit. All of our suits contained a body cam feature we could activate as necessary. I had a very bad feeling about this and wanted our encounter recorded.

 

I must commend you, Lieutenant, that was an excellent idea you had, turning down the gravity in your cabin,” Bull said as we walked down the corridor. “But you should know, I've been around a bit longer than you. Didn't take me long to figure out what you had done.”

 

How long?” I asked.

 

You mean, 'how long, SIR,' don't you, Lieutenant?” he asked with a smirk. I said nothing, prompting him to continue. “Well, I suppose you have a right to know. It started during her second year at the Academy. I was her counselor, you know. She came to me with a problem. I was able to take care of it. But it cost her. And things progressed from there. You know, she almost broke it off with you a couple times during your stay at the Academy. You see, once women get a taste of the Bull, they can't let go.”

 

He must've thought he was being funny, as he laughed at his own joke. I, however, felt nothing but rage. I wanted to kill him on the spot, but I had no desire to destroy my career over this piece of shit.

 

So, you've been screwing her every chance you get, haven't you?” I asked.

 

Of course, Lieutenant,” he said. “You know, you should be a fucking investigator.”

 

And that's the real reason you changed the bridge schedule, isn't it?” I asked.

 

Right again, Jones,” he said.

 

And the reason you sabotaged those weapons systems,” I added.

 

Just between you and me, yes,” he said. “But you see, after the skipper informed me of the sabotage, I did a little 'investigating' of my own,” he added, using air quotes around the word, “investigating.”

 

So, what do you intend to do now?” I asked. “Do you plan to beat me up or kill me?” He laughed at that as we turned a corner and entered a lift. He pressed the button for Deck Three and waited for the lift doors to close.

 

Of course not, Lieutenant,” he said. “You think I'd kill a highly-trained officer just for a piece of ass?”

 

At this point, yes, I do,” I said. The lift doors opened, and he stepped out, motioning for me to follow.

 

Well, that's where you're wrong,” he said. “You see, according to my investigation, which I'm just wrapping up, you walked in on your wife having sex. Distraught, you proceeded to sabotage the weapons systems, hoping to frame your wife's lover. When she told you that she intends to divorce you for him, you became despondent and took your own life.”

 

He stopped walking and I saw that we were standing in front of the starboard airlock, an airlock that was on the opposite side of the station where we were docked. The inner hatch was open and I could see that all of the spacesuits in the airlock had been removed. I also saw the semiautomatic pistol in his hand, tethered to his right wrist. I wondered when he put that on and realized he must've had it stashed in his flight suit.

 

Got it all figured out, don't you?” I asked.

 

Yes,” he said with a smirk on his face. “Don't worry, Lieutenant. After you're gone, I'll take real good care of her. Now, get in the airlock.”

 

You'll never get away with this, you know,” I said. He laughed at that.

 

Yeah? Who do you think Command is going to believe? A pipsqueak who can't even satisfy his own wife or a decorated space veteran of 20 years? Now, get in the airlock,” he said. I looked around and took stock of the situation. Looking at the nearest grav control, I saw it was set to .8 G. Not perfect, but I figured it would have to do. It was now or never.

 

I jumped as high as I could and placed one hand against the bulkhead. I kicked as hard as I could, twice, and caught him unaware, hitting him both times in the face. The force of the kicks propelled him into the airlock, where he landed on the floor. I could see the blood on his face where I had kick him. When I landed, I rushed to the controls and quickly closed and locked the hatch.

 

He shook his head, surprised at what just happened. He looked at me, furious.

 

Open the goddamn door, Lieutenant,” he yelled.

 

Just one question, Commander,” I said.

 

What?”

 

Did Tabitha know what you planned to do?”

 

Of course she did,” he said. “It was her idea. Now, open the fucking door. I won't tell you again,” he added, bringing up the pistol. He cocked the hammer and aimed it right at me. “NOW, GODDAMNIT!” I looked at the controls before answering.

 

Yes, sir,” I hissed, pressing a brightly-lit button. His eyes grew wide as he realized what I had done. The outer door hissed open and the air from the room rushed out into open space. Caught off-guard, he tripped over his own feet and was quickly thrust into the harshest environment known to man.

 

I watched his body tumble in space as it left the ship. I knew he would only last about 15 seconds out there without a suit. There is no pressure in space, and I knew that whatever air that remained in his lungs would quickly expand and painfully tear through the tissue in his lungs. He would either freeze to death or die of asphyxiation. I pressed the button to activate the comm.

 

Man overboard, Starboard Airlock Number Two,” I said. Instantly, alarms began to sound and a crowd started showing up at the airlock. I looked up and saw Alan running toward me. Alice was next to him. A few moments later, I saw Tabby.

 

Commander Travers, sir,” I said. I handed him the tiny storage device with video of the last several minutes. “He admitted sabotaging the weapons and admitted to having an affair with Lt. Jones. He also admitted planning to kill me and make it look like a suicide. It's all on here.”

 

Bull!” Tabby exclaimed as she looked into the airlock. By now, the force of Bull's ejection had sent his body into an unstable orbit around Mars, and it would take hours to recover, if ever. She turned to me, tears falling down her face.

 

You killed him,” she cried. “You fucking bastard! You killed him! I hate you! You hear me? I HATE you!”

 

That will be enough, Lieutenant,” Alan ordered. He grabbed Tabby by the shoulders and handed her to the medics. “Take her to sick bay. Get her under control. Then hand her over to security.” He turned to me as the medics took her away. “You know the drill, Lieutenant,” he said sadly. “I've got no choice. You're relieved of all duties pending an investigation. I'll take a look at this.”

 

Yes sir,” I said quietly.

 

All right, that's enough,” Alan commanded. “Get back to work. There's nothing more we can do here.” He turned to Commander Carson before speaking again. “When she's calmed down, get her statement. I don't want her anywhere near the bridge. Call Mars Station and see about recovering Commander Travers' body.”

 

Yes sir,” Carson said before leaving. Alan then turned to Alice.

 

It looks like you've just been promoted, Alice,” he said. “Until further notice, you're my Number One. You'll need to adjust the bridge assignments. The mission will probably be scrubbed after this.”

 

I understand, sir,” she said. “Commander Carson and I have finished our initial investigation, sir. We'd like to discuss our findings with you.”

 

In my ready room, Number One,” he said. “Immediately.”

 

Yes, sir,” she said. She turned to me before leaving. “I'm sorry, Bill,” she told me. “You didn't deserve any of this.”

 

Thank you, Commander,” I said before making my way to my quarters. When I got there, I pulled all of Tabby's things out and placed them in her duffel bag. I didn't want her anywhere near me and knew she would probably be assigned the quarters originally intended for the senior pilot, which were now empty. A couple hours later, someone from security came by and gathered her things. I didn't know where they were being taken and I frankly didn't care.

 

I turned the rubberized mattress over and replaced the soiled bedding, tossing the old bedding into the hamper. I knew that until further notice, I would be confined to my quarters, and my access would be limited to the galley and the gym. So I sat at the computer console in my cabin and searched the JAG forms until I found the one requesting divorce.

 

I filled out the form, requesting a divorce on the grounds of adultery. Since our marriage was handled by the Corps' JAG, the divorce would also be handled by them. There was nothing to split up and no children involved. We each had the same pay grade, so there would be no support. It was a simple split where she kept what's hers and I kept what's mine. I did request that she give up my surname and return her rings. After reviewing everything, I hit “send” and waited until I got confirmation that the request had been received by the JAG system.

 

It's amazing how fast the system can work sometimes. Within 24 hours of the incident, I had spoken to not one, but two agents from the Huygens CIU. It was clear to me they were trying to make it look as if I acted out of revenge. The JAG officer they brought with them to represent me in the questioning kept me from making any statement that might incriminate me, however.

 

I was on pins and needles for the next 24 hours, wondering if I would be taken into custody. I paced back and forth in my cabin most of the time. I knew that by now, what Tabby and Bull had done would be common knowledge aboard ship, so I deliberately stayed away from the galley during normal meal times as I wanted to avoid the rest of the crew.

 

I was sitting on my bed when I heard a knock on the hatch. I wondered if this was the station security coming to take me into custody and braced myself for the worst.

 

It's open,” I said. When the hatch opened, I saw Alan and Alice standing there. I came to attention as they entered the small room.

 

As you were, Lieutenant,” Alan said, taking a seat. Alice sat down as well. I relaxed and sat back down on the bed. “Mars Station has recovered Commander Travers' body. They also got the illegal firearm he had tethered to his arm. We've reviewed all the evidence, and the CIU report says you acted in self defense.”

 

The tracking history logs show that Commander Travers was at both of the sabotaged weapons stations just before Lt. Robinson noticed the calibration error,” Alice added. “And the DNA from the blood you found matched the commander's.”

 

Put that together with what he confessed to you, and it's pretty clear he's the one who sabotaged both those systems,” Alan said. “Your wife claims she didn't know anything about the sabotage, but she supposedly knew what he intended to do with you.”

 

But Travers told me it was all her idea,” I said.

 

Perhaps it was, perhaps not. Who knows? At any rate, she's being held in the brig as an accessory in Commander Travers' plot to murder you. She may be charged with conspiracy, but that's up to the authorities on Earth.”

 

So we're going back to Earth, sir?” I asked. He nodded his head.

 

We are, Bill,” he said. “The mission has been scrubbed, at least for now. Command is set to conduct a board of inquiry when we get back.”

 

So does that mean I can go back to work?” I asked.

 

It took some doing, but I convinced Houston I need you on the bridge, now that we're down by at least two officers. Think you can handle both Ops and Weapons? Alice here tells me you're ready to handle Ops.”

 

Yes sir,” I said.

 

Good,” he said. “We launch in 12 hours, so I want you rested and ready to go.”

 

Thank you, sir,” I said. “Would it be alright if I see my wife? I need some answers.”

 

Are you sure you want to do that, Bill?” he asked.

 

I'm absolutely sure, sir,” I told him. He thought for a moment, then nodded his head.

 

Alright, Bill,” he finally said. “I'll allow it, so long as Commander Brewster here accompanies you. You okay with that, Alice?”

 

I am, sir,” she said.

 

Right,” he said. “Well, get to it, son, then get some rest. It's about time you started earning your pay around here.”

 

Yes, sir,” I said. He stood, signaling the end of the meeting. After he left, Alice looked at me.

 

You ready, Lieutenant?” she asked. I nodded my head.

 

Yes, ma'am,” I said. We left and headed for the brig, located in the lower deck of the ship.

 

Don't tell anyone I told you this, but Captain Simmons put you up for a commendation,” she said.

 

For what?” I asked, surprised.

 

He says your actions not only saved your life, but the lives of a number of your shipmates. If Travers had fired that weapon while in the airlock, there's no telling what damage he would've caused to the ship,” she said.

 

Damn,” I said. She smiled.

 

Congratulations,” she said. We finally got to the brig and checked in with the security officer on duty. Then we walked to the tiny seven-by-six foot cell where Tabby sat on her bed, wearing an orange jumpsuit.

 

What do you want, Lieutenant?” she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm and derision.

 

So, it's 'Lieutenant' now. Not even 'Bill' or Lt. Jones,” I said. “Alright, have it your way, Prisoner. I just have some questions, then I'll leave you alone.”

 

Ask your questions, Lieutenant,” she said, staring straight ahead, not bothering to even look at me.

 

How long have you been screwing Travers?”

 

Since the second year of Academy,” she said. “He was my counselor.”

 

I know,” I said. “What started it?”

 

You really want to know?” she asked.

 

Yeah, I do,” I said.

 

Alright. Since you asked. I failed a test. He fixed it for me. I almost lost my appointment. But I didn't. Thanks to him, I was able to re-test. I owed him a favor so I fucked him. I loved fucking him so I kept on doing it.”

 

So, the two of you cheated, then you repaid him by cheating on me. Is that about it?”

 

Yeah,” she said. “You have no idea how many times you had me a few hours after he did. And you know what? I loved it. I loved the idea of you sucking my pussy after he filled it with his cum. You know what else?”

 

What?” I asked, about ready to throw up after what she just told me.

 

His cock hit places in me you could never reach. I'm surprised you could even feel me after he fucked me.”

 

And you fucked him all those times you worked with him?”

 

Whenever we could,” she said. “You know sex in low-g is next to impossible. So we did it before we left and after we got back.”

 

Did you ever love me, or was that all a lie?”

 

I loved you,” she said. “But I loved fucking him. And that's all it was. Just sex. Nothing more.”

 

You knew what he was going to do once we got on board, didn't you?”

 

Yeah, I did. I knew he was going to arrange the shifts so we couldn't see each other very often. He didn't think you'd figure out a way to squeeze in some time with me, though. Frankly, neither did I. But you fooled us both. So we decided to wait until we got to Mars,” she said.

 

And you knew he would sabotage the weapons platforms?”

 

I knew he was going to do something, but I didn't know exactly what,” she said. “All I knew is that he was going to make sure you wouldn't be able to take shore leave. We didn't think you'd turn it into a federal fucking case.”

 

And tossing me out of an airlock was just icing on the cake, right? He told me that was your idea. Was it? Did you really hate me so much you wanted to murder me?”

 

That was all his idea,” she said.

 

But you went along with it. You never once did anything or said anything to anyone to stop him, did you?”

 

No, I didn't,” she said quietly. “And I'm sorry for that. I didn't think he would really do it.”

 

Well, he tried. And he failed. And you're going to end up in prison for your part in that. I hope it was all worth it to you. By the way, I've filed for divorce.”

 

Big deal,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. I shook my head and stood up.

 

I was so proud of you, the way you handled this ship. I loved you with all my heart. But now, I wish to God I had never met you. I can't wait to testify against you at your court-martial. Goodbye, bitch.” I turned to leave and heard her call out to me.

 

I'm sorry, Bill,” she cried. “Really, I am.” Without looking back, I held up a middle finger and kept walking.

 

 

After we returned to Earth, Tabby was taken to a federal prison where she was held throughout the inquest and her court-martial. Several members of the crew, including myself, Alan and Alice, were called to testify.

 

We sat through hours and hours of depositions and took questions from a number of investigators and high-ranking officers. The worst part of it was the days we spent waiting for something – anything – to happen.

 

The only thing that did happen was the approval of my divorce, which came through at the beginning of April. The only thing that remained was the filing in state court, which the JAG officer said he would do. Finally, on Friday, April 18, we were called into the hearing room where we would learn our fate.

 

Alan, Alice and I sat in one row, while Tabby was brought in. Like us, she wore her uniform, but unlike us, she wore chains around her ankles and wrists. Two armed prison guards in black uniforms accompanied her, ready to take action.

 

We all stood as the board members were ushered into the room, their uniforms covered with ribbons and the gold braid that signified their rank. The senior board member, Admiral Cartwright, opened the meeting.

 

Please be seated,” he began. “Let me start by saying this is simply a board of inquiry and not a judicial action. Our job is to learn what happened and make recommendations to ensure it doesn't happen again.”

 

From there, he read the board's executive summary, which outlined what happened during the voyage to Mars. He concluded with a simple statement.

 

In summary, Commander Travers' personal agenda took priority over his duty to his ship, his captain, the crew and the Corps, leading him to violate the law, not to mention a number of established protocols. As a direct result of his actions, many of those serving aboard the Armstrong were put in danger, and the ship was taken out of commission,” he said. He turned his attention to me.

 

Senior Flight Lieutenant William Jones,” he said. I stood at attention upon hearing my name. He looked at me before continuing. “Lieutenant Jones, this board has reviewed all the evidence in this case, and has come to the conclusion that your actions not only saved your own life, but quite possibly, the lives of many of your shipmates.

 

In addition, your hard work, initiative and attention to detail was instrumental in finding and correcting the deliberate sabotage that could very easily have cost many lives, not to mention a trillion-dollar spacecraft. This board has reviewed your service record and we agree with Captain Simmons' evaluation.

 

As a result, we have approved his recommendation that you receive the Distinguished Service Medal. In addition, we believe that your talents would be of great value to the Corps in our future endeavors. You can expect to receive a set of orders to report to Advanced Spacecraft Operations School for the class starting on 1 June. Congratulations and good luck to you.”

 

Thank you, sir,” I said. The admiral nodded his head and turned his attention to Alan.

 

Captain Alan Simmons,” he said. Alan stood at attention. “Please understand that this board feels you did everything you possibly could under the circumstances. We understand your desire not to undermine your senior staff in the eyes of your crew, and to be honest, none of us have ever encountered a situation like this before. Nevertheless, as the captain and master of your ship, you are directly responsible for everything that takes place upon it.”

 

I understand, Admiral,” Alan said.

 

This board agrees that you should continue as the commanding officer of the Armstrong, however, a note has been placed in your service record. The is currently undergoing some upgrades and new crew assignments will be made.

 

We agree that Lt. Commander Brewster would be a good choice as First Officer. Therefore, this board has recommended that she be immediately promoted to the rank of Commander and permanently assigned to serve as your First Officer. You can expect a new set of mission orders very soon,” he said.

 

Thank you, Admiral,” Alan said. The admiral then turned his gaze upon Tabby.

 

Senior Flight Lieutenant Tabitha Abernathy,” he said, calling Tabby by her maiden name, which she had to take as a result of the divorce. Tabby stood as the others did before her. “It would be an understatement to say this board is very disappointed in you. Not only have you disgraced your former husband, you have disgraced your uniform and you have disgraced the service as a whole.

 

Your actions in this whole sordid affair – no pun intended – quite possibly put the lives of many of your shipmates, including your ex-husband's – at risk. As a result of statements entered into the record, both by you and by Commander Travers, we have been forced to evaluate your entire service record, including your record at the Academy.

 

We were able to confirm that Commander Travers, while acting as your counselor, intervened to help you pass a test that you initially failed. Had he not intervened on your behalf, you most likely would have washed out and would not have earned your commission. Granted, your record as a pilot has been exemplary, but we cannot help but believe you should never have received a commission to start with.

 

The sexual quid pro quo you engaged in with Commander Travers cost him his life and nearly cost the life of your former husband and a number of others. Your actions can only be described as unbecoming of the office you hold.

 

We understand that you are currently facing court-martial for your actions, however, this board has recommended to the Office of Personnel that you be stripped of your commission and reduced in rank and pay to Crewmember, E-1. They have agreed and your new rank and pay grade are effective immediately. Take her away,” he said, addressing the guards.

 

They turned her toward the door and started escorting her away, but she stopped as she came close to Alan, Alice and me.

 

Bill,” she began, tears falling down her face.

 

Stand at attention when you speak to me, Crewmember,” I said harshly. She snapped to attention and looked straight ahead with tears falling down her cheeks.

 

Permission to speak, Lieutenant,” she said.

 

DENIED,” I growled. “Take this... thing... out of my sight,” I told the guards. They snapped at attention.

 

Yes, sir!” They took hold of her and led her out as she sobbed. At that point, I really didn't care what she had to say.

 

A copy of the Board's findings will be forwarded to each of you and placed in your permanent record. This Board is adjourned,” Admiral Cartwright announced, pounding his gavel. We stood as the board left the room. Alan turned to me after they left.

 

Well, that wasn't so bad,” he said. “What do you say we grab a beer or something? I'm parched.”

 

Sounds good to me, sir,” Alice said.

 

What the hell,” I added. We left the building and went to the O-Club where we proceeded to get a nice buzz.

 

 

Epilogue – 17 months later:

 

Standing at the airlock that led to the Galileo Station orbiting on the dark side of Mars, I thought back over the previous 17 months. Tabby's court-martial wrapped up a month before I reported to Advanced Spacecraft Operation School. Of course, I testified for the prosecution, and I did so gladly, even though I hated to recall the memories of my time with her and Bull on the .

 

Tabby looked like hell when she was brought in. This time, she wore the uniform of an enlisted crewman, and her flight wings were gone. She had lost weight and her eyes were sad and sunken. She had lost everything she loved – her rank, her wings, the man she once called her husband and her lover. She had also lost any hope of a career as a pilot. No matter what happened to her today, her record was permanently tarnished and she would never be at the controls of another spacecraft – civilian or military.

 

The members of the court-martial filed into the courtroom and we all stood until told we could take our seats. The judge looked at the members of the jury and asked if a verdict had been reached.

 

We have reached a verdict, your honor,” the senior member, a full Commander, said.

 

When asked, the Commander said the jury found Tabby guilty of being an accessory after the fact to my attempted murder, but not guilty on the conspiracy charge. Apparently, the defense had won the argument that it was a matter of “he said – she said” and there was no direct evidence to show she had actively conspired to murder me. There was, however, plenty of evidence to show she knew about Travers' plan to throw me out of the airlock but did nothing to stop it.

 

The judge had no mercy on her and sentenced her to ten years of hard labor in a federal penitentiary. She would also be given a dishonorable discharge at the end of that ten-year period. The judge thanked the members of the jury and pounded the gavel, bringing the matter to a close. Tabby was led out the same way she was brought in – in chains. She never once looked at me or made any effort to speak to me.

 

I reported to my class, which was located in Florida, not far from Cape Canaveral and enjoyed the training. I also enjoyed the weather and the scenery, which included a great deal of naked female flesh.

 

A year and a half later, we graduated and I was promoted to Lt. Commander. I was also given a set of orders, which led to me being here at Galileo. This station, unlike Mars Station, was an enclosed facility that orbited the Red Planet in such a way that it could not be seen from Earth. I had no idea what went on here and I was curious, to say the least.

 

When the door opened, I was met by an attractive female Captain who took my orders. I introduced myself and shook her hand.

 

Good to meet you, Commander Jones,” she said. “I'm Captain Hawkins. I'm familiar with your service on the Armstrong, and I've heard a lot of good things about you from Captain Simmons. I've also spoken to Alice Brewster.” I looked at her, not saying anything for a while. “She told me what happened, and I'm sorry. That won't be an issue here, I assure you. So, are you ready to take a look at your home for next few years?”

 

Years?” I asked. She smiled and led me to an observation platform. When I joined her, she pressed a button and the glass in front of us cleared up. My eyes bugged out of my head when I saw the monstrous vessel in front of me.

 

She's the largest, fastest and most advanced ship in the fleet, Commander. And you'll be my Operations Officer. That makes you my Number Two. Are you ready for an adventure?” I saw her eyes twinkle as she said that.

 

Absolutely, Captain,” I said. “What's our destination?”

 

If all goes well, Commander, Alpha Centauri.” I looked at her, shocked. That was just over four light-years away. “The plan is to break the light barrier. If everything works as advertised, we'll be there in less than two years.”

 

Is that even possible?” I asked. She smiled and nodded her head.

 

If the engineers are right, yes,” she said.

 

Damn,” I said. She laughed.

 

We launch in 15 days, Commander,” she said. “You have a lot of homework to do, so you'd better get to it. I like to hold staff briefings at 0800 every day.”

 

Yes, ma'am,” I said. She held out her hand and I accepted it.

 

I have to take care of a few things, but I'll be in touch. Welcome aboard, Commander,” she said before she walked away. After she left, I looked at the vessel floating in the giant bay. I looked on the side of the ship and smiled as I took note of the name: USS Enterprise.

 

 

Fade to black...

 

The adventures of Bill Jones and humanity's first starship continue in "Where No One Has Gone Before," coming soon.

 


Submitted: January 19, 2023

© Copyright 2023 Saddletramp1956. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Other Content by Saddletramp1956

Book / Sci-Fi and Fantasy Erotica

Short Story / Sci-Fi and Fantasy Erotica

Short Story / General Erotica